Kautsky on the State Duma
|Written||23 May 1906|
Source: Lenin Collected Works, Progress Publishers, 1965, Moscow, Volume 10, pages 452-454.
The article “Kautsky on the State Duma” appeared in Vestnik Zhizni (Life Herald), No. 6.
Vestnik Zhizn i—a weekly scientific, literary and political magazine, published legally by the Bolsheviks. It appeared in St. Petersburg intermittently from March 30 (April 12), 1906, to September 1907. By November 19 (December 2), 1900, thirteen issues had been published. In January 1907, the weekly became a monthly, of which seven issues appeared. Contributors to Vestnik Zhizni were V. I. Lenin, M. S. Olminsky, V. V. Vorovsky, A. V. Lunacharsky, A. M. Gorky and others. In No. 12 of the magazine, Lenin printed his article “The Russian Radical Is Wise After the Event”.
A new pamphlet by K. Kautsky has appeared, entitled The State Duma (Amiran Publishers, St. Petersburg, 1906, price 3 kopeks). The author expresses a number of highly interesting ideas on questions that are matters of controversy among Russian Social-Democrats. First of all there is the question of the boycott of the Duma. Our readers are, of course, aware of the cheap manoeuvre to which our Bight Social-Democrats resorted and still resort to evade this issue. Their argument. is a very simple one. Participation in the parliamentary struggle is Social-Democracy, non-participation is anarchism. Therefore, the boycott was a mistake, and the Bolsheviks are anarchists. This is how that sorry Social-Democrat, Comrade Negorev, for example, argued, and how a great many of his friends argue.
Kautsky is a Marxist. That is why he argues differently. He thinks it necessary to examine the concrete historical conditions in Russia, and not repeat what to Europeans are battered phrases.
“In these circumstances,” writes Kautsky, after briefly describing the Dubasov regime, “it is not surprising that the majority of our Russian comrades regarded a Duma convened in this way as nothing more than a most outrageous travesty of popular representation, and decided to boycott it and not take part in the election campaign.”
Kautsky sees nothing surprising in the tactics of “Blanquism” and “anarchism”. It would be very useful for Comrade Plekhanov and all the Mensheviks to think about this, wouldn’t it?
“It is not surprising,” continues Kautsky, “that most of our Russian comrades thought it more advisable to fight in order to wreck this Duma and to secure the convocation of a constituent assembly, than to join in the election campaign in order to get into the Duma.”
The inference is clear. In solving concrete historical problems, Marxists must carefully analyse all the political conditions of the moment, and not draw deductions from empty phrases about the antithesis between Blanquism-anarchism, etc.
While it is becoming the fashion among our Social-Democrats to repeat after the Cadets that the boycott was a mistake, Kautsky, examining’ the question quite impartially, does not even think of drawing such a conclusion. He does not hurry slavishly to bow before the fact that the Duma is being convened, although he is writing at a time when the failure of the attempt to “prevent the Duma” from being convened has already become obvious. But’ Kautsky is not one of those who after every set-back (like that in December, for example) hastens to repent and to confess ·"mistakes”. He knows that set-backs in the proletarian struggle do not by a very long way prove that the proletariat had made “mistakes”.
Another important passage in Kautsky’s pamphlet is the one dealing with the question of who, i.e., which classes or groups in society, can win in the present Russian revolution.
“The peasants and the proletariat,” writes Kautsky, will more and more vigorously and unceremoniously [remember this, comrades of Nevskaya Gazeta who wrote so approvingly about the “wisdom” of the Cadets!] push the members of the Duma to the left, will steadily strengthen its Left Lying, and steadily weaken and paralyse their opponents, until they have utterly defeated them” (p. 8).
Thus, Kautsky expects the peasants and the proletariat to win in the present Russian revolution. Will not our Menshevik comrades explain to us the difference between the revolutionary-democratic dictatorship of the proletariat ’and the peasantry and the victory of the proletariat and the peasantry? Will they not accuse Kautsky of being a Blanquist, or a follower of Narodnaya Volya, because he thinks that the peasants and the proletariat, and–not the bourgeoisie, can win in a bourgeois revolution?
Whoever takes the trouble to ponder over this question will get a clearer idea, of the fundamental mistake of the Mensheviks, who are always prone to believe that only the bourgeoisie can be at the head of a bourgeois revolution, and are therefore always scared by the idea of the peasants and the proletariat winning power (and victory in a revolution means winning power).
The third important and valuable idea expressed by Karl Kautsky is that about the Duma being a new centre, an important step forward in the organisation of the movement. “No matter which direction the Duma may take,” says Kautsky, “the indirect or direct, the deliberate or unintentional impulses it henceforth gives the revolution will have a simultaneous effect over the whole of Russia, and will everywhere call forth a simultaneous reaction.”
This is quite true. Whoever now says the Bolsheviks are advocating that the Duma be “disregarded”, or even dissolved—whoever says they are ignoring the Duma—is not telling the truth. At the Unity Congress the Bolsheviks moved a resolution which said:
“The Social-Democrats must utilise the State Duma and its conflicts with the government, or the conflicts within the Duma itself, fighting its reactionary elements, ruthlessly exposing the inconsistency and vacillation of the Cadets, paying particular attention to the peasant revolutionary democrats, uniting them in opposition to the Cadets, supporting such of their actions as are in the interests of the proletariat,” etc.
Those who want to judge the Bolsheviks by their resolutions, and not by what the Negorevs say about them, will see that there is no disagreement whatever between Kautsky and the Bolsheviks on the question of the State Duma.
In his pamphlet Kautsky says nothing at all about a Social-Democratic group in the Duma.
- See p. 293 of this volume.—Ed.